Vietnamese health officials and the US Embassy on Friday launched the HIV self-testing service, the first of its kind in Vietnam, in Ho Chi Minh City.
The service helps users know their HIV status 20 minutes after using the test kit to take their sample of saliva or blood.
US Ambassador to Vietnam Ted Osius said: “HIV testing has never been as simple as it is with a self-test. Anyone at risk can learn their HIV status confidentially, privately, and in a safe way.”
Nguyen Hoang Long, director of the Vietnam Administration for HIV/AIDS Control, said the service will increase access to HIV testing and normalize it as other over-the-counter rapid tests such as for diabetes or pregnancy.
The HIV self-testing service is part of the Healthy Markets project, which has been supported by the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief through the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and implemented by PATH, a non-profit organization, and Vietnam’s Ministry of Health since October 2015.
Dr. Vu Ngoc Bao, deputy director for the project at PATH, said that initial results from the service have been very promising.
“Since the end of May, over 377 individuals have opted for HIV self-testing.
“Of the seven percent confirmed HIV positive, all (100 percent) were successfully enrolled in HIV treatment services.”
Vietnam has committed to the United Nations 90-90-90 targets toward ending the HIV epidemic. Accordingly, by 2020, 90 percent of people living with HIV will know their HIV status; 90 percent of people who know their status are on HIV treatment; and 90 percent of all people on treatment will have undetectable levels of HIV in their body, known as viral suppression.
There were an estimated 260,000 people living with HIV in Vietnam as of 2016.
Although the country has seen a reduction in new HIV infections over recent years, there is low annual uptake of HIV testing among key populations at high risk of transmission. This includes people who inject drugs, men who have sex with men, transgender women, and female sex workers.